A blogger at Gawker who uncovered a 2000 sexual harassment lawsuit against Sen. Scott Brown is wondering why the Democratic Party never brought it up as an issue during the special Senate election in January that saw the Republican Brown win the seat long held by Democratic icon Ted Kennedy.
Brown, whose election in the midst of the health care debate rocked the Democratic establishment, was accused in 2000 of sexually harassing a campaign worker during his 1998 run for city council office in Wrentham, Massachusetts, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan reports.
Nolan’s report on the issue minces no words. “Did the Democrats blow an opportunity to keep their 60th Senate seat?” he asks.
Perhaps not: According to sources cited in Nolan’s report, the lawsuit was quickly withdrawn and Brown himself alleged to a newspaper that he had been the victim, rather than perpetrator, of harassment.
According to news reports, Jennifer Firth, a mortgage banker who had worked to get Brown elected to the Wrentham Board of Selectmen in 1998, filed a lawsuit against him in July of 2000, alleging that Brown had harassed her and then “tried to smear her reputation around town with forged letters and emails.”
But the lawsuit was quickly dropped, and Firth’s lawyer withdrew from the case, saying that he believed Firth’s “allegations are not supported by ‘good grounds’.”
According to Firth’s complaint, Brown engaged in “offensive” conduct that caused her to quit his campaign; he then tried to “defame and humiliate” her by spreading rumors to her colleagues that she “had made sexual advances” towards him during his campaign. She also alleged that Brown told several people that he’d had an “intimate relationship” with her and that he had a stack of sexually explicit letters that Firth had sent him. In her suit, Firth says that she’d never been sexually intimate with Brown, nor did she ever send him the aforementioned letters.
The case then took a strange turn. Two days after the lawsuit was filed, Jennifer Firth’s lawyer, Harvey Schwartz, filed a motion to withdraw as her counsel, saying that “to the best of [Schwartz’s] knowledge, information and belief, the above allegations [by Firth] are not supported by ‘good grounds.'” The next day, Jennifer Firth withdrew her suit. It was dismissed with prejudice, which means it can never be re-filed. Brown told a local newspaper that her lawyer had decided to withdraw after he was presented with letters and e-mail messages that proved she’d been harassing Brown.
“To be sure, it’s possible there was no merit to Firth’s case,” Nolan writes. “But why did Democrats and members of the national press fail to even bring up the fact that Scott Brown had once been accused of sexual harassment and defamation in the myriad stories about him prior to Massachusetts’ special election in January? Google it. The entire incident is conspicuously absent.”
Nolan asks, “Did the Coakley campaign look into the case and decide Firth’s claims were baseless? Did they miss it entirely?”
Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in January cost the Democrats their 60-seat super-majority in the Senate, meaning the Democratic legislative agenda is susceptible to a Republican filibuster. The loss of the seat was interpreted by some as a repudiation of the Democrats’ legislative priorities.